Lew Stringer brings us his second OiNK cover (#33‘s was the first cover of his career) which perfectly sums up the very different and eclectic range of characters the comic had compared to its peers, even if Roger Rental He’s Completely Mental on the bottom row isn’t inside and wouldn’t actually return until #63! The first of three covers with a yellow background and a banner coaxing in new readers to the now-weekly OiNK, it’s by far the best of the three.
Inside there’s a definite feeling of a more traditional comic creeping in. Not only are strips of different lengths all corralled together like last time, but all of the returning characters are on the same pages. This isn’t very OiNK-like at all, so thankfully it’s only a temporary situation as far as I can remember, perhaps because of the sudden increase in workload for the editorial team. Thankfully, after a handful of weekly issues OiNK does return to its much more randomly generated feel.
For these handful of issues The Slugs would be the first strip readers would come across after Grunts. The punk band, written by co-editor Tony Husband and drawn by Les Barton (‘Lezz’) were the perfect introduction for new readers, with the scratchy art and the punk mentality behind OiNK itself on the page for all to see. However this story is a little different, while still perfectly compatible with the characters and the set up.
OiNK had its fair share of critics at the time who said it was a bad influence on kids, but they clearly never actually read the comic because it often got serious messages across using humour children would appreciate. Tony is an absolute gent in real life, a man whose passion for fairness to all creatures, human and otherwise is clear on social media posts. With this Slugs strip back in 1988 he was making a clear point to young minds through anarchy and comedy. Brilliant stuff.
There’s another specific message OiNK liked to get across to its pig pals on occasion, one which resulted in an extra edition outside of the regular comic and you’ll be able to check that out in just a few days, but I’ll get to that in a bit. First up, one of the very best Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 8 5/8 (yearƨ) strips out of the whole run. For the most part the family are pushed into the background and we get to focus on Hadrian himself innocently playing in the snow.
Another little reference to Stinky Exton there after OiNK contributing writer Graham Exton who was great friends with writer (and co-editor) Mark Rodgers. Never has a creation married writer and artist together as perfectly as Hadrian Vile, with Ian Jackson’s unique style capturing the spirit of the character and humour so sublimely. I can also sympathise with being wrapped up like a burrito by parents at that age, although thankfully it never produced this end result.
The anonymous backside on the cover wasn’t the only bare bum to be brandished by Lew Stringer as none other than Pete Throb would bare all in his strip too. With only hours until the school disco Pete finds himself at a loss as to what to do with his enormous pimple in such a short period of time. He can’t exactly dance with anyone with this third wheel of a zit! One daft idea lands him in trouble, as per usual, but this leads on to an even more unexpected outcome.
It’s all innocent enough, yet OiNK was the only kid’s comic you’d have seen anything like this in, never mind on the cover! I also like the colouring used here, just the flesh colours which highlights the pimple and a yellow for the balloons, which I originally thought was to match the colour of the pus, but this turns out to be a sickly, gross brown colour. Nice. Also, that second subtle pun surprised me, I thought using the word “shower” to describe a group of people (usually daft people) was a Northern Ireland thing!
Lew also writes the continuing adventure of Sherlock Hams in The Hog of the Baskervilles, jam-packed with groan-worthy puns and gags. Other highlights include Uncle Pigg finally answering the query I myself had when I read #39’s Hadrian Vile strip, but thankfully Ian wasn’t fired for getting into a jam (sorry). David Haldane had occasionally given us some strange factoids from around the world (also in #39 as chance would have it) and it’s now a regular feature. Also, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkin’s ongoing soap-like strip ends on a cliffhanger that would make even Emmerdale jealous.
Back in #32’s review one of the stand out moments was when Jeremy Banx’s smelly alien Burp, forever trying to befriend humans on his strange new home, gave life to a child’s teddy bear believing he was saving its life rather than creating a new one. Of course it didn’t have a happy ending, not when there was opportunity to have a hilarious and horrific one as the girl proceeded to play with the newly sentient bear in the most childlike of ways.
This resulted in the strip finishing with the bear screaming as limbs were torn off, blood spurted everywhere and threats of burying him in the garden were made. I mentioned back then it wasn’t the last we’d see of this character. I’m delighted to say the time has come for him to contact Burp again in a desperate attempt to save himself from the torture of being treated like any other toy. Can Burp come to the rescue in time?
That poor bear. But it wouldn’t have been the same if he’d been rescued and it makes for a brilliantly funny and (clearly) final appearance. The ‘Little Obedient Woman About the House Play Set’ is also a nice dig at the clichéd stereotyping of boys’ and girls’ toys which was so prevalent back then, something that’s thankfully improved since. Just this past Christmas my friend’s four-year-old boy was ecstatic when Santa Claus brought him the toy kitchen he’d asked for, so things have definitely improved.
Something else that’s improved since the 80s is the abundance of smoke we’re subjected to. At the time my parents both smoked (they stopped about twenty years ago now) and secretly so did all of my siblings. I always hated it and never started, but growing up with it I guess I got used to it whether I liked it or not. Thinking back it really was everywhere and even as a child I remember being in restaurants or family bars on special occasions and the air was thick with it. I couldn’t cope with that these days!
Thankfully, when I was in my 20s the introduction of the smoking ban across Europe soon made its way here and overnight things improved dramatically. So much so that it’s quite rare for me to see anyone smoking these days (because of this I can definitely smell them before I see them). Despite the fact that OiNK’s three co-editors (and Chris Sievey inside Frank Sidebottom) all smoked in the 80s they were keen to ensure the young readers didn’t make the same mistake.
These photos were taken at the end of a day meeting some pig pals to promote their anti-smoking message, something they’d done with the release of a very special free edition of the comic, the OiNK Smokebuster Special. This was given away to schools in the north of England but unfortunately was never distributed further afield despite its success (although this was Fleetway’s fault, not OiNK’s, read the review to find out more). As such, this is obviously a rare issue and was incredibly difficult to get a hold of.
I say “was” because I finally got my trotters on it last year. I wasn’t even aware of it until a handful of years ago and have yet to read it, saving it for the review. That time has finally come and with this page above as my cue I’ll be reading the special 16-page OiNK before the next regular weekly issue, so watch out for it on the blog in a few days. But first up, with the themes gone so too were the enjoyable Next Issue promos, but in their place came a series of brilliant newsagent coupons under the banner of ‘Great Moments in History’.
I don’t know of anyone who actually had to use these, we simply asked for our reservations. While other comics I collected such as Marvel UK’s Transformers and The Real Ghostbusters would just reprint the same coupon every issue, OiNK used it as a chance to get one more laugh out of us. There are some brilliant ones to come so I intend to show them all.
Right, well there we go, our second weekly OiNK done and dusted. The next couple of issues would keep to the yellow theme on the cover as mentioned above but next week’s is horrible. I must warn you, it really is one of the ugliest comics covers you’re ever likely to see! You’ll have to wait until Saturday 21st January 2023 (oh pipe down, it’s only seven days away) to see what I mean, but before then check back here on Wednesday 18th January 2023 for the review of the OiNK Smokebuster Special!